Looking for a Horror movie to watch and deciding I would give one of the first movies on Amazon a try, I realized I had heard of the movie before. It was The Visit. I went to research the movie and discovered that it had a decent score-and, wait, what, hold up?
This is an M. Night Shyamalan movie?
After being burned so frequently with movies such as The Village, Avatar the Last Airbender and… More recently, The Happening where nothing happened, I was shocked by this. Researching further, I discovered an article that claimed that “The Visit is Worth the Trip.” Jokingly to myself, I decided I write a humorous review after the movie and also hope that Amazon didn’t load well so that I was given a refund for poor performance. Starting the movie, I realized the acting was pretty okay and the plot, was pretty interesting. And then… I got hooked. Somewhere along the way, I was sucked in. I jumped at scares, felt scared for the characters and even emotionally invested in the movie. WAIT, WHAT!?
About: A found-footage Horror and Thriller, The Visit follows two young kids, Becca and Tylor, who go to visit their grandparents for a week. Their mother had a falling out with her parents almost fifteen years prior over a guy that she was seeing and they haven’t talked to each other since then. The grandchildren, particularly Becca, are eager to clear the air and convince their Mother to spend time with her boyfriend on a cruise and relax while they are taken care of. After traveling to the home, the two settle in on the quaint little farm all while filming a documentary of their adventures. Only… Their grandparents are acting a tad… bizarre? Things get weirder the longer they stay as well, particularly after 9:30 P.M., which is past “bed time.” The movie is Written and Directed by M. Night Shyamalan and several Co-Producers, including Jason Blum who produced Insidious as well as several other well-known horror movies.
Warning! Potential spoilers ahead.
The Plot/Characters: After falling out with her parents so many years ago now, Rebecca and Tylor’s mother never wants to see them again. After her parents reach out to her family, the grandchildren insist that they want to visit. Despite her wishes, they finally wear her down. Becca is set on recording the entire thing, filming it in a Documentary that she hopes will serve as a means of getting her mother some closure and mending things, while also discovering what her mother did the night she left that was so horrible.
The plot is pretty basic and easy to follow along the journey, as the characters motivations are pretty clear most of the time (despite my questions about why the mother would ultimately cave to her children and send them off with grandparents she hasn’t seen in forever). All the while, however, the movie lets events unfold almost naturally, with things happening on camera or being alluded to off-camera. Interviews one-on-one with individuals help speed up some of the plot, but most of the time the kids are filming as events occur as well and have two cameras the entire time. And, of course, there is a twist. But it’s so well executed I was sitting there thinking, “why on Earth didn’t I think of that?” It’s not a huge shock once the pieces fall together, so it makes sense.
The actors have nailed down their roles. Rebecca is an intellectual with a love for filmography and everything it entails. She has motivation central to the plot while also having weaknesses, including her own self-image. Tylor is goofy, thinks himself to be a lady’s man even at his young age of like, 13? He enjoys rapping and goofing off whenever he possibly can despite his sister’s wishes, but overall the two get along really well and have similar interests in helping their mom. The mother is a small part but is a person conflicted with their own mistakes and her unwillingness to confront the past is central to everything. Meanwhile, the grandparents are… Kind, gentle and are genuinely excited to see their grandchildren and show them around. Lovely, right? If they weren’t acting… So… So… Strange? Also, there’s mold in the basement so don’t go down there, okay?
The Scares: Things get scary very slowly. There’s the fact that the grandma is a little… Crazy? Yeah… She acts extremely sweet and innocent but the first thing we get to see is her chasing them underneath the house in the crawlspace then laughing it off like nothing happened. Things get worse through the week and the children are beginning to question whether or not they should leave early. Probably a good idea when your grandmother is running around naked in the house at 10 P.M.
What really sent chills down my back was when the grandma asks Becca to clean the oven, prompting her to get all the way inside it to get it clean. The movie taunts you here since you know you are watching a horror movie and that something us up with the grandparents.
It turns out, according to each of the grandparents, that the other is struggling with dementia or sundown syndrome, all of which causes their strange behavior. OHhh, okay. Alright, I got you. So all the scares were a misunderstanding, right? Phew, you really had me going there, movie.
NOPE! Just when you think you have to feel sympathy for old people and their struggles, the movie ramps up to create a more sinister atmosphere showing grandma not only running around like a loon on camera but approaching their door with a knife, giving you a nasty heart stopping jump-scare in the process. Also, a visitor to the house never actually leaves… Might be time to call off the trip! Without giving too much away, a quick plot reveal causes the situation to escalate to critical levels while the kids fight for their lives. The suspense is what really keeps you on the edge of your seat and there’s more suspense than actual scares, which can work sometimes pretty well. But don’t go into the movie thinking you’re going to pee your pants, cause you probably won’t. They make diapers for that also, you know?
The Humor: The movie keeps it light as well, throwing in goofy antics from Tyler, including his rapping skills and different reactions to other people being filmed, such as one person freezing up and acting stiff or the train conductor who thinks he’s a great actor. It serves to break up the film, keep the dialogue interesting and the actors more relaxed on camera and this was important to me particularly after The Happening and its cardboard, stiff acting.
Overall: If you’ve been burned in the past by M. Night, then you might find it in your heart to forgive him after this movie. It definitely feels like a return to some of his best works, in my opinion and this is after I was burned on so many flops. I’m usually not a huge fan of found footage, but The Visit does it’s best to keep the shaky camera action down and you will feel more as if you’re along for the ride versus about to throw-up from rocking all over. The actual movie is pretty good. The plot and characters follow a lot of tropes but keep it light with humor and the acting is decent. The build-up creates suspense and the final act gives good closure. You won’t be sleeping with the lights on after this movie unless you are visiting your grandparents (…?) most likely, but I found myself worrying about the characters and hoping they would make it. Overall, it’s a decent movie and I’d recommend checking it out if you want a return to some basics.
Have you seen The Visit? If so, what did you think? What is your favorite and least favorite M. Night Shyamalan movie?